Detroit — D.J. Zezula would love nothing more than to help Wayne State earn a Division II playoff appearance after leading Clarkston to consecutive state championships while earning a spot on The News Dream Team in 2014.
Zezula, a 6-foot, 215-pound junior, is 13-8 as a two-year starter at Wayne State, throwing for 1,927 yards and 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season to help the Warriors (7-4) average 33 points a game.
“We want to learn from our mistakes and be better than last year,” Zezula said of his goals for the season. “We had a heck of a team last year talent-wise, especially up front on the offensive line, but we made some mistakes, four losses — four too many, so my biggest goal, my main goal, is to learn from those mistakes and make sure to not repeat them so we can come out on top this year.”
Zezula feels he has a lot of weapons to work with this season.
“My personal weapons, my main weapons are who I call ‘The Three Amigos’ — Corey Ester, Deiontae Nicholas and Darece Roberson,” Zezula said. “I think they are the three fastest guys in the GLIAC and they’re going to take the top off the defense for sure.”
Don’t forget 5-11, 240-pound junior running back Romello Brown, who averaged 7.1 yards a carry, rushing for 1,564 yards and 16 TDs to be named Wayne State’s offensive most valuable player for a second straight year.
So, where has Zezula improved the most since stepping on the Wayne State campus?
“I’d say sitting back in the pocket, for sure,” Zezula said. “At Clarkston, it wasn’t the same offense as here at Wayne State. It was more spread it out, dink and dunk with the passing game and I’m running a bit. And, now that the guys are bigger and faster than me, a lot bigger and faster than they were in high school, I can’t run as much as I used to, so sitting back in the pocket was a struggle my first year, even my second year.
“Now, I’m getting more comfortable (in the pocket) and I’ve grown in that. I’m trusting my offensive line, trusting that the pocket is still there even though I can feel it collapse. I can still stand in there and deliver so that’s where I’ve grown a lot.”
Nicholas, a junior running back, had a career-high 256 all-purpose yards last season against Grand Valley. Roberson was voted the team’s offensive rookie of the year.
Nicholas was also an outstanding return man, setting a single-season, school record for kickoff return yards (712), scoring on a 97-yard kickoff return against Walsh.
Zezula feels the Warriors can be successful in the passing game or the ground game.
“I like working to our strengths, and if our strengths are spread them out and let’s expose their defenders, then let’s do that,” Zezula said. “And, one of our strengths is defensive recognition. It’s easy from a quarterback’s standpoint, but we’re getting that from the receiver’s standpoint, you know, what they’re seeing too and that’s been big.”
Wayne State’s defense played well, limiting opponents to just 21.8 points
“Defensively, it starts with Dustin Carlin at the brains of our defense,” Zezula said of Carlin, a senior middle linebacker. “He gets everybody in the right position. Anthony Pittman (outside linebacker) and Ronny Brant are both special and unique in their own ways.”